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UTEP Basketball to open final road trip of regular season at Jax State Thursday

Photo Courtesy: UTEP Athletics

(Courtesy: UTEP Athletics)

EL PASO, Texas - The UTEP men’s basketball team (13-15, 4-9 CUSA) will look to get back into the win column when it plays at Jax State (14-14, 6-7 CUSA) at 5 p.m. MT/6 p.m. CT Thursday.

The Miners have dropped four straight contests-the longest skid of the season-including a 65-54 setback last time out to Conference USA co-leader Sam Houston on Feb. 24. 

UTEP isn’t that far off, though, as it held second-half advantages in all four of those setbacks, including being ahead or tied within the final eight minutes in three of them. 

UTEP even had chances to win the game in the final possession of both regulation and overtime at Middle Tennessee before succumbing, 96-90, in double OT on Feb. 17 in its most-recent road contest.

The Orange and Blue, however, are catching the Gamecocks at the wrong time.

Jax State has won back-to-back contests and three of the past five, including a 77-75 victory at FIU last time out on Feb 24.

They rallied from a 13-point deficit to pull out the win.

The Gamecocks sport a mark of 8-5 at home (4-2 in CUSA) while UTEP is shooting for its initial road victory of the campaign (0-9, 0-6 CUSA).

Nearly half (four of nine) of the Miners’ road setbacks on the year have been by six points or less, but in each of those they just couldn’t quite close it out. 

UTEP was up by 15 at FIU with seven minutes left before falling, 72-68, on Jan. 13.

It was ahead by seven with six minutes remaining in regulation in the double OT loss at MT on Feb. 17.

The Miners led by three with six minutes left in an eventual 88-82 loss at Abilene Christian (Dec. 17) and were down by one with four minutes to play in a 60-56 vanquishing at Sam Houston on Jan. 27. Jon Teicher (43rd year) will be on the call on “The Home of UTEP Basketball” 600 ESPN El Paso and the UTEP Miners App.

It will also stream on ESPN+ (subscription required) with Mickey Shadrix (play-by-play) and former Miner Ray Hammett (analyst) describing the action.


First-year Conference USA member Jax State enters Thursday’s match-up with an overall record of 14-14, including 6-7 within CUSA to sit tied for fourth place in the league standings.

The Gamecocks are peaking at the right time, having won two in a row and three of the past five.

That includes pulling out a 77-75 victory at FIU last time out on Feb. 24.

They rallied from 13 points down in the second half for their largest come-from-behind road victory in at least 15 seasons.

Jax State is a tough-nosed foe which is allowing only 65.4 points per game to rate third in CUSA and 28th nationally for scoring defense.

That is aided b holding the opposition to 42.3 percent shooting (fourth CUSA) while committing only 16.3 fouls per game (fourth CUSA).

The Gamecocks block 3.9 shots per contest (third CUSA/100th NCAA), with Mason Nicholson (1.4-third CUSA) and Andres Burney (0.9-11th CUSA) setting the tone in the department.

Jax State is outstanding on the boards (+6.3-second CUSA/27th NCAA). Juwan Perdue (5.8 rpg-10th CUSA) and Nicholson (5.1 rpg-15th CUSA) are the top performers on the glass, followed by Marcellus Brigham Jr. (4.6 rpg-21st CUSA). Perdue is especially effective on boxing out, pulling down 4.4 defensive rebounds per contest (seventh CUSA).

Although the Gamecocks are seventh in CUSA for scoring offense, they do boast the top point producer in the league in the form of KyKy Tandy at 17.8 ppg (first CUSA/86th NCAA).

There’s a big drop off afterwards, with Perdue rating second on the squad in scoring at 8.6 ppg, followed by team assist leader (2.9 apg-eighth) Quincy Clark with 8.1 ppg. Three others chip in between 5.5 and 7.5 ppg. Tandy can score at all three levels.

He paces CUSA in free-throw percentage (89.8-18th NCAA) while rating third in free throws made (88).

The Xavier transfer knocks down 2.6 3-pointers per game (fourth CUSA/78th NCAA), having nailed 72 of 191 for a readout of 37.7 percent (third CUSA/52nd NCAA). He has taken the most overall shots (401-40th NCAA) in CUSA but has also hit the most (169-84th NCAA).

Incidentally, even with Tandy, Jax State is last in the league and 334th nationally for 3-pointers per contest (5.2).

Notable alumni include Ashley Martin (became the first woman to play and score in an NCAA Division I American football game) and Cary Guffey (star of the 1977 Steven Spielberg film “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”).


UTEP will be looking to sweep the season series with Jax State after posting a 79-71 wire-to-wire win on Feb. 1. The Miners are now 2-0 all time against the Gamecocks, having claimed the first meeting, 76-53, in the Sun City on Dec. 18, 1995.


UTEP was upended by Conference USA co-leader Sam Houston, 65-54, inside the Don Haskins Center on Feb. 24. The game featured four ties and six lead changes, with the Miners leading the Bearkats by one (40-39) with roughly 14 minutes remaining in regulation. Sam Houston struck back in the form of a game-changing 13-2 surge, including eight straight to vault ahead by 10, and UTEP could never recover.

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Adrian Ochoa

Adrian Ochoa is ABC-7’s Sports Director.


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